Life from the rear-view mirror

Thank you Uncle Sugar! You can’t dream too big for God! Vol 3

March 7, 2013 | Comment

I share two loves with my Dad, no…three. Mom… Airplanes, and Cars.

As far back as I can remember we did one of two things on Sunday afternoons. We drove to airports or car lots. Or sometimes it was car lots first then airports. But strangely enough my very first flight was off the water at Long Lake NY up in the “Daks”… in an old Cessna 195 on floats. This was a beautiful bird with a big radial engine out front. What an airplane! What a sound! I will never forget that first flight.

For those who fly, hangar fly or are just getting the itch, flying captures the imaginations and hog-ties our wallets. To this day there are few things more exciting to me than the sound of a Rolls-Royce powered P-51D Mustang roaring across show center at a blistering speed, an old radial engine firing up for the first flight of the day or a fighter in full afterburner. For those of us in love with aviation and all things that fly…these sounds are magical.

In 1984 I finally got my private pilot’s license and then my commercial helicopter ticket shortly thereafter. I have never lost the thrill of flying even though a heart attack , two hip replacements and a motorcycle accident have slowed me up a bit. But it has been the best hobby ever. Along the way I have flown just about anything with wings.. J-3 cubs, Decathalons, Robins, Vikings, Bonanzas, Pitts, Baron’s,  310’s and more. I flew as much as I possibly could. I flew aerobatics, formation, you name it. I remember I was so close to finishing my helicopter rating that I traded my wrist watch for my last hour of flight instruction to get ready for my commercial check ride.

I was passionate about flying.

But there was one plane I yearned to fly…not just a plane…a jet. Not just any jet…a fighter. Not just any fighter…the F4D Phantom II. The Phantom was a thing of beatuy to me. It was big for a fighter, menacing, and powerful,  It could fly at speeds in excess of Mach 2 at 60,000 ft. It was a Mig killer in Viet Nam and if I could have found a genie in a bottle …I would have used up one of my wishes just to fly one. But as an older, overweight civilian aviator, with poor eyesight…I only flew this aircraft in my dreams, until I met Col Robert Straughan,( ret.)

Bob and I hit if off from the moment we met. He was quite a bit older than me but our love of flying and the F4 in particular, created an instant bond. Long story short…It was because of Bob that I was pulling up to the gate of the 457th TFS (Tactical Fighter Squadron) at Carswell AFB on the morning of June 10th 1986. I was going to live my dream and go for a hop in one of the sqaudron’s F4Ds. We would be flying a practice bombing mission and our target was Shoal Creek Bombing range, a few hundred miles to  to the south.

I had signed my life over to the goverment 6 weeks earlier and had gotten Uncle Sugar’s clearance to ride in this hot rod of a fighter in return for a picture story in the Dallas Morning News.  I had gotten there early and the ground techs immediately started the lenthy safety brief. I had to know how to get out of the plane if there was a problem. And that meant litterally riding a rocket out if I heard the words “Eject! Eject!, Eject!” over the intercom from the front seat. From there I had to learn how to get down out of my parachute from a tree or anywhere I might be hanging from in the event  I did have to punch out and something got in between me and the ground. So I hung from my harness as the techs demonstrated the “how to” and then had me try it.  After that it was on to get suited up with the harness and G-suit, check my Oxygen mask then the ride out to the flight line. All this took about three and a half hours to take a one and a half hour flight.

The flight was better than I could have ever imagined. Truly the ride of my life. My IP (instructor pilot) Maj Wayne Foster let me fly most of the way down to Shoal Creek including a couple of rolls and some very high-G exits out of the bomb run at nearly 6.5 G’s. I can’t help but smile every time I think back. The experience trumped my dream by a long shot. I am one of a few thousand civilians to have gotten his dream ride. To top it all off…I didn’t puke and no one shot at us. As a final thrill (and to show off a little) Maj Foster did a full burner run down the runway. It was as if someone had kicked me the back. I had never felt that kind of acceleration…ever. I probably never will again.

Are you still with me?

I never thought I’d have an opportunity to fly a military fighter jet…but I did!  Do you feel that God has something for you to do but you can’t put your finger on it yet. Check your dreams and aspirations. Ask God if he may want to do something through you that is so big you can only dream about it now. When he does show you (and I believe he will) don’t skip any steps. I had to go through the whole safety brief to get to the thrill of the flight. Listen to God’s “ground crew”…those around you who know you… support you and those who you trust. Make sure your equipment is working. Prepare your heart and mind to fight the enemy. I got into that F4 with all the gear I would have had on if I was going on a real bombing mission. Your mission for God may be just as critical, and just as dangerous.

I flew from the back seat…I couldn’t see well because all the navigation gear was in front of my face. I had to rely on the IP Pilot. Remember God is NOT your co-pilot…you are. Let him set the course. Listen to instruction. Occassionally you’ll hear an “Eject” call and you’d better be listening or else a crash and burn could be in your future instead of the intended mission. And finally…just enjoy the ride!

Man’s chief end is to glorify God… and to enjoy him for ever!



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